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Microsoft Mesh powers shared experiences in mixed reality

“You can actually feel like you’re in the same place”

For years, Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté received countless proposals for virtual reality technologies, but they couldn’t match the magic of his intensely visual and mesmerizing live performances. Now, with a new platform provided by Microsoft, he’s rethinking that.

Laliberté appeared at Microsoft’s Ignite digital conference via holoportation, which uses 3D capture technology to beam a lifelike image of a person into a virtual scene. In the company’s first keynote experience designed entirely for mixed reality, people attending the conference from living rooms and home offices around the world could experience the show as avatars watching events unfold in a shared holographic world.

Holographic experience

It was the company’s first opportunity to showcase some of the experiences made possible by Microsoft Mesh, a new mixed-reality platform powered by Azure that allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences on many kinds of devices.

“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning,” said Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman. “You can actually feel like you’re in the same place with someone sharing content or you can teleport from different mixed reality devices and be present with people even when you’re not physically together.”

Kipman appeared on the Ignite virtual stage as a fully realized holoportation of himself, narrating the show’s opening experience in real time as rays of light that simulated his physical body.

Hollywood director

Stefano Chiacchiarini / Shutterstock.com

James Cameron, the filmmaker and ocean explorer, and John Hanke, CEO and founder of leading augmented reality company Niantic, Inc., also joined Kipman remotely to spotlight how Microsoft Mesh is helping them create shared experiences across the virtual and physical worlds.

Laliberté chatted with Kipman about a new collaboration to help Lune Rouge, another company Laliberté founded, realize a project called Hanai World. It’s a social mixed reality platform that he’s thought about for years -which would connect live and digital entertainment experiences into single events – but only now have technologies like Microsoft Mesh caught up with that vision.

Microsoft Mesh will also enable geographically distributed teams to have more collaborative meetings, conduct virtual design sessions, assist others, learn together and host virtual social meetups. People will initially be able to express themselves as avatars in these shared virtual experiences and over time use holoportation to project themselves as their most lifelike, photorealistic selves, the company said.

The new platform is the result of years of Microsoft research and development in areas ranging from hand and eye tracking and HoloLens development to creating persistent holograms and artificial intelligence models that can create expressive avatars. Microsoft Mesh, a new mixed reality platform, will allow geographically distributed teams to meet and collaborate in shared mixed reality sessions where participants appear as digital representations of themselves.

Reality tour

Architects and engineers could physically walk through a holographic model of a factory floor under construction, seeing how all the pieces of equipment fit together in three dimensions, potentially avoiding costly mistakes.

Engineering or medical students learning about electric car engines or human anatomy could gather as avatars around a holographic model and remove parts of the engine or peel back muscles to see what’s underneath. Colleagues could simply get together and chat in a shared virtual space, or companies could use Microsoft Mesh-enabled apps to offer virtual all-hands meetings or trainings to employees around the world.

At Ignite, OceanX announced a new collaboration with Microsoft to create a Microsoft Mesh-enabled “holographic laboratory” on its research ship OceanXplorer. Image courtesy of OceanX.

Coming soon

The Microsoft Mesh platform will in coming months offer developers a full suite of AI-powered tools for avatars, session management, spatial rendering, synchronization across multiple users and holoportation to build collaborative solutions in mixed reality, the company said.

Over time, the company said it expects customers will be able to choose from a growing set of Microsoft Mesh-enabled applications built by external developers and partners, and also to benefit from planned integration with Microsoft products such as Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365.

“This is why we’ve been so passionate about mixed reality as the next big medium for collaborative computing,” Kipman said. “It’s magical when two people see the same hologram.”

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